End of the Hunger Strike, Much Work to Be Done
Yesterday, on May 9th, at 6 pm, 79 hours into the strike, senior administrators finally agreed to meet with the students behind the #SwatHungerStrike. This meeting consisted of those who had been hunger striking on campus, a few organizers who had helped with the planning of the hunger strike, three faculty members, and administrators Chief of Staff Ed Rowe and Dean of Students Jim Terhune. After nearly 75 hours (4 days) of not eating, it took students reaching out to senior administration once again in order to set up this meeting. Upon finally receiving a response, we were informed that they thought we were only willing to meet with a mediator present and therefore did not plan to reach out prior to finding a mediator, which they had not done at that point. We do still find it disappointing and negligent that the College let their students starve for this long without any direct contact.
During the meeting, we were able to discuss and reach compromises on all five of our goals for our hunger strike. The meeting, due to administrators’ good faith, and the hunger strikers’ persistence and heart, was in many ways a best case scenario.
These are the commitments that administrators made in the meeting:
Regarding a reallocation committee led by queer and trans Black and Indigenous students:
A Committee or group comprising of students, faculty, and staff will be formed in the fall to advise on what happens to the buildings and land that formerly housed Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon fraternities, among other possible items related to student space needs. While we did not get explicit confirmation that the process will be led by these students, as we desired, we have confirmation that we will have time during our next meeting to discuss this further with the people who have more power to make that decision.
Regarding a Reconciliation Committee based in transformative justice and the protection of students’ right to peaceful protest:
There will be a meeting early next week with all the people who were present in the room last night (the names signed at the bottom of this announcement) as well as an external mediator. Dean Terhune and Chief of Staff Ed Rowe will make attempts to get President Valerie Smith, Provost Sarah Willie-LeBreton, and Director of Public Safety Mike Hill to come to this meeting. The meeting will discuss the standards upon which the aforementioned Committee will advise on what happens to the buildings and land that housed the fraternities will be made and the formation of a reconciliation process — based in transformative justice and involving students, faculty, and staff— which will analyze the role of police and nonviolent protest on Swarthmore's campus, among other necessary analyses of violence and change on this campus.
Regarding the ending of fraternity violence:
At the time of the meeting, we were informed that, by Monday, the President will release a decision on the findings of the Task Force on Student Social Events and Community Standards. Shortly after 11:30 AM on Friday, May 10th, President Smith released the Task Force recommendation in full and made the following decisions and announcements: To permanently ban fraternities and sororities on campus, with the exception of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, which can continue until the spring of 2022 but must stop recruiting new members; that the leases of the former Phi Psi house was terminated as of May 1st (DU had been operating without a lease for the entire year); and the decision on what to do with the space will include the re-imagination of Sharples as well as student and community input. This was a huge win by the Coalition to End Fraternity Violence!
Regarding apologies for the violence permitted and enacted by administrators last Thursday:
The students present in the room today will contact the eleven students who were in President Valerie Smith's office on May 2 and will share with administrators a list of those who feel comfortable speaking to them about the events of Thursday. Administrators will then contact these students to ask for further discussion of the events that took place on Thursday, May 2nd, with every attempt possible to have this conversation by next week. An external mediator will also be present at this conversation. What this further conversation looks like will be discussed at next week’s meeting. Ultimately, as a result of our discussion, it seems as though senior administration understands that their perception of Thursday is very different from students’ perceptions and they are willing to get a better understanding of the truth as told by the students who experienced the harm that was permitted. Although they did not commit to an apology, they did confirm that after speaking with the eleven students, if they learned more information and felt as though they were in the wrong, they would in fact issue an apology.
These are huge wins that we would not have accomplished if it were not for this hunger strike, its 130+ supporters, and other student activism throughout this semester. Though we remain cautious in our optimism, we have received both verbal and written confirmation of these commitments with faculty witnesses present.
Thus, after reaching these commitments, we have decided to end the hunger strike today, on May 10th, day five of the strike. In total, the overall strike lasted 102 hours with three additional students joining at different points during this time.
This is not an easy decision for us by any means, and we are reluctant to say that we got everything we wanted out of the hunger strike. That being said, after 102 hours of not eating, the hunger strike is growing increasingly dangerous, and we do have tangible next steps in sight. These next steps will all take place after the weekend, as the board meeting ensures that nearly every senior administrator who would be able to help us reach our goals is booked. Thus, keeping in mind our own safety and autonomy and the amazing progress we made last night, we have decided to end the hunger strike on our own terms. We take these commitments in good faith and believe that, especially knowing that the entire community is watching, administrators will honor them. Although our hunger strike is over, our work is not done and we look forward to continuing to make progress on these issues.
We would like to thank the 130+ supporters who signed our Google Form, and all those who supported in ways that went beyond said Google Form, specifically the four faculty members that met with both us and the administration with an effort to achieve the best outcome for everyone: Professor Edwin Mayorga, Professor Vince Formica, Professor Elizabeth Bolton, and Professor Lee Smithey. We would not have been able to do this hunger strike without the community backing us, and it has been amazing to see the support this has garnered.
With Love and In Solidarity,
Dylan Clairmont ‘21
Tiffany Wang ‘21
Kenny Mai ‘21
Anya Slepyan ‘21
Moey Rojas ‘22
Akshay Srinivasan ‘21
Olivia Robbins ‘21
Joy George ‘20
Matt Koucky ‘22
Thank you to those who showed support and gave us permission to share their names (names appear exactly as they were entered on the form):
Paul F Buchanan
Andres Perez Correa
Ariel Munczek Edelman
James Gisele, Haverford College '19 (they/them)
Stephanie Widzowski (Haverford student)
Morgan Bartz ‘14
Ixchel López (Wellesley College '19)
Emma Lee Miller